Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Ever since I can remember, I have always had a difficult time comprehending the church. There are a few topics, or concepts, that have stood out for me that seem contradictory in nature. I call them my hang ups. Here are a few of them.
Polygamy. Not just the law of polygamy. We all know that was a bunch of crap. Even the modern Mormons know it. They just can't find the best way to make it disappear AND justify it both legally, morally and spiritually.  The hang up I have with it is the idea that it was illegal. At the origination, clear to the denouncing thereof, it was illegal. One of the main ideas, codes, creeds and even articles of faith for the LDS church (#12) is to follow and obey the laws of the land. This was clearly against the law, on several levels. Polygamy, as well as polyandry, were denounced. Marriage to a minor was illegal. How does one justify the idea of breaking the law for the sake of the religion, when the religion clearly states they do not believe in breaking the law? It's interesting to me that this idea never comes up. The attempt to justify it usually ends with the idea that their is a greater plan than we can comprehend and that we don't have all the answers for. Breaking the laws of the land is a topic that really arises quite often in early Mormon history. Joseph Smith married women that were currently married to other men, and committed adultry with many other women because polygamy was unlawful. Laws broken. Joseph Smith printed his own currency. Law broken. Joseph Smith resisted arrest several times. Law broken. Joseph Smith formed his own militia and used them to help him resist arrest. Law broken and law broken. Joseph Smith ordered people to go destroy a printing press and private property without due process of the law and against the federal and state constitutions. Law broken and law broken and law broken...and so on. So how does one preach to a congregation to obey the laws of the land, and at the same time support an organization that clearly has not? There were times when Mr. Smith would tell his followers, and the public, that he was not involved in any illegal activity; at the same time that he definitely and historically WAS involved heavily in illegal activity. That does not sound, to me, like the actions of a prophet and ear piece of God. I mean, these contradictions were so bold and hypocritical, that even today they scream foul; at least to those that aren't under the magic spell. If Joseph Smith were doing these things today, he would be on America's Most Wanted t.v. show: And if arrested, would be doing some seriously hard and long time. And prison is not the place you want to be doing anything that is hard and long. That was a little prison humor for anyone that likes that kind of thing. I certainly do not and am appalled that someone would write that.  The saddest part for me is that members, even today with the presence of all the evidence, would still support him and cry foul at the government for it's horrible actions against an innocent and holy man.

Racism. Blacks and the Priesthood. I get hung up on this topic for many reasons that are obvious to people with logic and brains and love for equality and humans. But the religious justification for this has never made sense to me. My hang up with it is that it is not even in harmony with the religion and it's stated beliefs. The church states they believe men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression. The historical rationalization made by the church to justify not allowing Blacks to have the priesthood is to say they are a cursed people because of the actions of others in the past. They have been marked with dark skin because of the sins of their ancestors long ago. How does that fall in line with the idea of punishing someone for their own sins and not the sins of others? And how does that work with the idea of obeying the laws of the land, when the constitution states that all men are created equal? Is it possible to interpret the phrase, "not for Adam's transgression", as meaning that no one person should be held responsible for the sins of others; including the sins of those that have lived here previous to us now? We all know the racially charged statements made by Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, Bruce McConkie and Joseph F. Smith. These are prophets of God, according to the LDS church. That means they are the full representatives of Jesus Christ; the prophet, seer and revelator. This brings us to a very sticky crossroads. On the one hand, if the church were to denounce the statements made by these men (which they have not), it would mean they are denying God. If they were to say they just made social mistakes, it would mean they were saying things, in the name of God, that just weren't true. That would open the door to say that if these statements, which were made in the name of God, are not true, then how do we differentiate these from all the other revelations and statements made from the prophets? They say you will know if they are true by personally asking God in prayer: Well I am sure many people did this at the time of making the statements and for years after, and they were told it was all true. If they were to make these comments, and they were not true, don't you think God (since they are on a very personal line of communication with him) would then afterward say, "Hey buddy, slow down. That crap that has been spilling out of your mouth about the colored folk? Not true. Take it back". It is also very difficult to argue the concept that they made this crap up without the consent of the Lord previous to speaking, because Brigham Young said that any time he speaks, it is as if it is coming out the mouth of God. Why would God, if this is truly his church, put in a prophet (or 4) that is not speaking his will. Wouldn't he have seen that coming? Doesn't God tell us in the scriptures that he (or his prophets because, you know, they talk to each other) would never lead us astray? It is so extremely, magnanimously bizarre to me that this situation alone does not bother more people. I can tell you it didn't bother me for years, because I didn't know anything about it. I can also tell you that this subject and this merry-go-round concept was the final straw for me. I just cannot, in all my attempts, find a way to possibly justify this reasoning and pure racism. And believe me when I tell you this: I am 100% satisfied with my solution.

Women in the church. This is a huge hang up for me. I know I have touched on this previously, but I just wanted to throw it in the mix here. Again, if all men (and women) are created equal, as is clearly noted in this wonderful land we live in, then why are women not allowed the same privileges as men? It is bizarre to me that we still live in a society that believes men and women should not be allowed the same privileges. What role a man, woman, or Chaz Bono wants play in this life, should not be limited by their sex. It definitely should not be limited by the idea that God wants it to be this way. If the sex of a person is so important as to whom they may be dictated by God to be, then why, when looking across different cultures and time lines, do we see that there have been changes that have clearly been made solely upon social construct? If you look back in time, and across different cultures, the role of women being the 'helpmate' to Adam, even in societies that are built around the bible, has changed in many different ways. This demonstrates that the role of sex in society is not a god-given role, but rather a social construct that dates back to times of pure survival and race-saving tactics.

Baptism. Really? Eight years old? You really think an eight year old is accountable for their sins? Really? Eight? Have you ever met an eight year old? Do you really think they are anywhere near the possibility of free agency, or ability to conceptualize an idea like this and the ramifications that come with it? Are you serious? You can't be serious. I personally have raised two eight year old kids, and I say nay. And they, of course, were even very mature for their age.

Church. What is the point? If you truly want to worship Christ, then shouldn't you be out serving others? Isn't that what he always said was the most important thing? Shouldn't church consist of 3 hours of community service instead of sitting on an uncomfortable bench with a weird name? This social construct is only around because people want to gather and feel good about what they are doing with others that believe similar to them. You know, like the KKK did.


There are so many parts of the Mormon religion that seem so contradictory, that sometimes it is difficult to remember which part is the one that you are supposed to follow or believe more than the other; even though both, or more than two, choices can both be the right choice and yet the one that is more important to the....never mind. I think you understand that understanding can be something that is difficult to know because the knowledge is searching out the....crap. There I go again. That is how I would feel sometimes in church when listening to someone tell me what the more moral way to be was. So what is it that I am trying to get at here?

I did not grow up in Utah, but I live here now. Made the trek with the fam right after high school. Had a tough time adjusting over the first few years, so I would move back and forth from my home town to Utah. One of the things I had a difficult time with was trying to understand the political affiliations that the church held on to. For some reason, the church has had a strong tie with the Republican party. When I say “tie”, what I mean is they are in bed together. This has never been more apparent than the recent war on gay marriage in California. Not only was this a war on homosexuals, it was a strengthening exercise and way to flex money at the republican base. A loss, I believe, would have many future implications that the church was secretly trying to avoid. For example, if the vote would have been won by the gay agenda, the door would have been open for future federal rule changes. Tax breaks could change for non-profit or religious groups. If those groups would then exclude certain individuals based on something that was deemed legal, they would no longer receive the tax assistance that the government was giving. This would cost the Mormon church millions, if not more, of dollars they could be using to invest in properties and other entities…I mean help them to spread the true word of God.

So I guess that is one reason to look at why the church leans republican. But what if you thought the reasons were more based on Christ’s teachings, rather than purely for political and financial gain? Sure, there are one or two simple ones that seem obvious. Republicans are a pro-life organization. The modern revelation part of the church is pro-life. This has become even more apparent with the talks in conference recently about avoiding birth control to allow God’s plan to take effect. Most of the time, when one hears the term ‘pro-life’, one assumes we are talking about abortions and the lives of unborn children. But what about other life ending, or life saving, situations that are out there? What about the death penalty? The Republican party, as is obvious by the talking points during the recent republican debates, is supportive of the death penalty. Utah also has the death penalty in force. So what is the difference? Is the fact that the person they put to death, who is guilty of killing others, justification for ending their life? Or, is the bottom line that they get to decide which life is okay to be ‘pro’ for. I am not a huge fan of people murdering other people. At all. For any reason. So, when a person, or community, or entity, decides to end one life and fight to save another, how do we say they are any better than the original crime? Can it really be justified? Does it take away from all the time and energy we put in to finding ways to improve and extend the lives of our people? What about the killing in war? The republicans seem to favor that as well. Did Jesus teach to kill those that society deems unfit? Does the fact that someone may be an innocent, unborn child that may be alive, or a murderous adult that clearly and consciously ended the lives of others, change the simple truth that they are both ‘children of God’.

The Republican party is big on small government. Big on keeping the government out of the lives of the people. The Mormon church supports this. However, the Mormon church does not operate this way. They are heavily in the lives of their followers. They are the opposite of small government. They involve themselves in every aspect of life. They tell you the proper way to raise your family, when to raise your family, why to raise your family. They tell you how much taxes (tithing) to give to the organization. By the way, if you do not pay the proper amount of taxes, you cannot achieve the highest degree of living and dying. Curious, don’t you think? They tell you what groups to be in, where to be and what to do on certain days of the week. They tell you what to believe, and if you forget, they have people to come to your house to remind you. The church is designed around the concept of big government. They have several different programs that come down from the church leaders. Priesthood, Relief Society, Primary, Young Adults, Single Adults, Home Teaching, Choir, Scouts and Sunday school. Each one regulated with leadership hierarchies that report to the next highest entity.

It would appear, to the outsider, that if one were to compare the ideals of both the Democrats and Mormons, one would have difficulty differentiating between the two. They both want programs designed to assist those in need. They both believe in the right of its members to be heard and represented, and to be able to express their beliefs to others freely. They both are based on the need of the community and the social responsibilities that go along with it.

What about the law of consecration? Isn’t that the end goal plan of the LDS church? To give all of your time, talents, energy and all things that aren’t needed to supply the basic needs of your family, to the church. This plan, if it were to commence, would be the envy of the democratic party; and the disdain of the republicans. However, if you were to ask anyone in the church if they would be willing to take part in this activity, I can guarantee you there won’t be an approval from a single soul. The church, of course, would never implement such a plan, because they know it would never work. It looks great and idealistic on paper, but socially it would never stick.

It is perplexing to me why some of my closest friends that are very strong believers in the LDS church teachings, are also staunch republicans. Those two ideals just don’t, in my mind, seem to appreciate each other. I have often found myself sitting in church, listening to the talks given by other men that are preaching the works of Christ. Yet, when not in church, the actions of their lives are often contradictory to said teachings. I don’t think they consciously do it, to be completely honest with you. I think there is some sort of strange dichotomy that exists, at least with most Mormons in Utah, that allows one belief to coincide with one of almost opposing ideals. The reason I say this is because when questioned about the literal meaning of their beliefs and if they would actually follow them, the answer is no. The answer is usually in the realm of the idea that they believe in the church, but that does not mean that they believe ALL of the religion; notably that the literal sense can be interpreted to mean different things for each individual. I know I am rambling here, and probably not even making sense. For that I am sorry. That is how my wife lives every day, so feel sorry for her; she has earned it. Back to my point…Take the new ‘message’ that has come out of the LDS conference this last week, that I briefly touched on earlier. It was mentioned, more or less, that birth control should be taken very seriously before being used. It is something that the church is encouraging the members not to use; especially permanent means of birth control. It was even brought up in our local church meeting a few weeks prior by our bishop (no doubt passed down from above to prep for the big meeting). The message by the bishop was the same, but added that before making a decision to ‘get fixed’, he would encourage couples to come in and have a meeting with him to discuss the importance of not doing it. In discussing this with members, I have been given several different interpretations. Now remember, this is a message that has been given by the leaders of the church. This basically means that it is the message that is approved by the prophet, which in turn means that it is a modern revelation from God himself. So, knowing this, one would assume that there is not much room for interpretation. On the other hand, do you really think that people that are old enough to be making decisions on permanent b.c. will actually change their entire lifestyle on a message that they deem to be private? I don’t think so. If they have already planned this out, they are going to do it. They will find a way to religiously and personally justify going against the teachings of the church. And how dangerous is it to tell people to not use birth control? I can think of several people that should have used something to prevent them from having any offspring whatsoever. I’m talking to you, couple at Costco with the five kids that are wilder than hyenas on the safari.
The point is; where will the line be drawn in the sand? At what point is it either necessary to follow the leaders and teachings of your church, or make a personal decision that goes against their commands. Can the personal choices and changes be justified in the eyes of your God? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Excusing the past, changing the present and making it appear that it is all part of the plan. How is it that one can look at the past, and even origin, of the LDS church and, through strange and broken reason, justify the idea that it is all good now.
The priesthood Vs. black men. To me, this is a very fascinating situation; and for several reasons. There are different rationales that are attempts to credit the decisions made. There are arguments as to why God has made this such a controversy. I enjoy this topic, because I think it brings to surface the real, raw, inescapable problems of the Mormon church’s past. Even one of the prophets, on national television, found himself attempting to skirt the question and avoid the ultimate proof: The simple fact that there is no real excuse or legitimate justification that will satisfy even the smallest portion of the threat of racism and inequality that is the Mormon Church. When I say, the Mormon Church, I do not just mean the church in the old days. I also do not mean the present church. I mean both of them together. I do not believe they can be separated. There are too many parts of the religion that stem from the same origin and are still accepted today. For example, women not able to have the priesthood originates from the same time period. However, this concept remains upheld today. Why? I believe it is because women have not pressed the issue. It has not become a huge social issue that has become completely unavoidable. Racism did not matter at the time that the ‘revelation’ was implemented. The ban was then lifted when it was no longer acceptable to separate by color. However, when you look at the time frame of allowing the black race to obtain the gift of the priesthood, it clearly demonstrates the idea that the church leaders held on to the separation for as long as possible. Yes, the revolution occurred years prior to the lift, and many use this fact to demonstrate that this was a true revelation from God and not a social construct. They argue that if this was a social change, it would have been done years prior during the changes involving Mr. King. I say it is because the leaders of the church rode it out, resisted, for as long as they could. Look at the Prop8 situation now. The church is completely against the ‘gay agenda’ and are doing everything they can to keep them excluded. However, as will be demonstrated over the next few years, the Lord will slowly reveal the ideas that will allow homosexuals more inclusion in the mainstream church. The reason for this is because of the social pressure that will be put upon the organization; just like that of when the black members of the church were allowed the same privileges as the white members. Just look at what is happening in San Francisco. Five years ago, the church would state that being gay is an abomination. Two years ago they came out and said that some people have gay tendencies, and they are welcome to participate in the church functions, so long as they did not act on their ‘problem’. This year, the church made a big public relation move by notifying the world that they put an openly gay man in San Francisco in a power position in the church. Perhaps by learning from the past, they are trying to do this slowly as to hopefully fly under the radar. This a great strategy for them, because when they take that final leap of total inclusion, it won't be drastic; and it will almost seem as if it is the next logical step for God to take. Oh how the money will talk. Can you truly find any other reason to fight PROP8 other than preserving the opportunity to make and keep more money?  If you can, let the church know, because they are having a hard time actually coming up with an excuse.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

THE TEMPLE: Superior Beings Vs. Women

"Don't you just love the celestial room? The spirit is so powerful here." "If I am having a bad day, or if I need to find answers to really difficult problems, the best place for me to go is the temple."  "Being in the celestial room is as close to being with God as one can get on earth". 

These are some of my favorite temple quotes that I have heard over the years. However, I can honestly say, I have never once felt comfortable, or enjoyed being, in the temple. From day one, that place gave me the willies. Even the basic functions as a kid, going to the temple to do baptisms for the dead, seemed wrong to me. Why did we think it was okay for us to decide if someone would get baptized? If they were alive, they may have said 'no'. When they are dead, you can't prove whether they would want it or not. Therefore, it is not okay to take away someone's free will simply because they are dead. I mean, a main concept of the Mormon religion is that our lives continue beyond death and before birth. We are still "us", even after we die. So the concept of making different rules for someone because they are dead, to me, is the same as deciding to baptize in their name while they were on a vacation in the Bahamas.  When I was a teenager, our youth group used to drive for 3 hours to the nearest temple, do a quick set of dunks and prayers, and drive 3 hours back to home. The trip was fun, because I was with friends and we always found a way to have fun. But I remember feeling bad on the way home, because what we were doing just didn't sit right with me. But, of course, I kept my mouth shut and went with the flow.

If someone were to ask me if there was one thing more than any other that would convince me that the church was a hoax and not based on truth from a 'loving' God, it would be the temple ceremony. And, while attempting to remain respectful to believers, I will give a few examples without revealing too much. First off, the clothes, or uniforms are ridiculous. They also bring out the main problem I have with the whole gig: Sexism. The entire temple experience is based on the premise of sexism. Nay, the entire religion is based on sexism. And, if you disagree with that, you truly need to take a step back. The concept of the Mormon religion and their idea of the expectations and plans from God, are based on the notion that men are superior to women. There is  an attempt made to nuance this concept in to an accepting form of government, but at the base of the rules it remains sexist in pure form. The crazy part for me, that I just can't quite grasp, is that the devout women in the religion believe it is the way to live; even to the point that they make sure they are placed in an inferior position. It literally blows my mind. Let me explain as best I can...

In the temple, from the beginning of the 'session', men and women are segregated. Men sit on one half of the room, while women sit on the other. Even if I wanted to sit with my wife through the tortuous couple of hours, I would not be allowed. There are times during the ceremony when you, as a group of men, or women, are prompted to make promises to God. Most of these are done by standing and repeating aloud a promise that is scripted. Most of these, if not all, are done in the order of men going first and the women going second. It is important to note here, that there is a certain familial hierarchy in the Mormon religion. It is as follow: God speaks to Jesus, Jesus speaks to his followers or messengers, the messengers speak to the males, the males speak to the females. In reverse order, and this is the significant part, it ends up as follows. If a women wants to ask of something from God, she cannot go to him directly. She must go to her husband and then he can continue with the connection to the almighty. Also, a woman is to take cues or spiritual guidance from her husband, as he gets it from the Lord. The weirdest part to me is that they say women are to take counsel from their husbands, as long as they are following the guidance of Christ. If a women is not allowed to directly communicate with God in the first place, how is she supposed to know if her husband is actually following God's commands; or is taking a slight detour over to "whatever I want to do" avenue. Near the end of the 'session', there is a symbolic entrance in to heaven. A man (never a woman) plays the role of God, accepting worthy members only in to heaven. Once the man has entered, he is allowed to test the woman to see if she is worthy to enter heaven as well. It can't be the other way around. Also, while women are making some of these promises aloud, they are required to place a veil over their faces. So basically, from a societal perspective, the temple is teaching, reinforcing and even encouraging the idea that men are superior to women; not only here on earth, but also in the eyes of the supreme being. 

So why is it that women in the Mormon church are not only okay with this notion, but are incredibly supportive of it. Like I stated before, the nuance of changing it from sexist and demeaning, to god-like and appropriate is supported by women and, of course, men. The male support I can understand, from a basic, lazy and controlling perspective. The female support is what I have trouble with.  Do they support it because they truly believe God made it this way? Or, is this more of a traditional role that has been carried down from the generations of male dominated societies, under the geise of holy scripture. Have women been suppressed for so long, they aren’t even consciously aware that it is happening to them? The concept has been there for as long as the King James version of the Bible has been around. The belief is supported by the idea that God made Adam and then created Eve from Adam. The idea in the Mormon church is that God created Eve as a “help mate” for Adam. But that was written a long time ago. The Book of Mormon, and the origination of the Mormon church occurred during a time when women were still not regarded as equals…not that they are yet even today, by many standards. However, times are changing and people are waking up to the idea that a penis, or lack thereof, is not a determinant to automatic superiority, or key to extra spiritual privileges. The mormon church, as pathetic as it is to watch, remains this way. This is not god-like. This is not American; and American is supposed to be god-like. We are placed on this earth as equals. We are given citizenship in this country as equals. We are taught to treat each other as equals. The Mormon church does not support this notion; especially during it’s early years. Polygamy, just by definition, is a sexist cultural entity. It is a man collecting women. A male polygamist, or as I like to call them, a jealous pimp with really bad business sense, is a social construct of sexism. That is why the Mormon church fights to separate the old ways from the new. They don’t care that it was illegal at the time; that never bothered them (that is an entirely different story of hypocrisy for another time). They separate themselves from polygamy because of the appearance it gives to male superiority.  

This is the part that baffles me…the justification, by women, of male superiority within the church. Boys, when they turn 12 years old, are blessed with the sacred powers of the priesthood. Girls, at the age of 12, are not. As the boys age, they are blessed with increased  levels of priesthood abilities. This continues in to adulthood and for the rest of a man’s life, as long as he remains worthy to hold the priesthood. Women, no matter their level of worthiness, are not able to obtain the priesthood. So sayeth the lord. In the family construct, it is important for a man to be worthy of this office, so that he is able to bless his wives and kids with the priesthood. In other words, the woman and children will be blessed by having a worthy man in their home to share the powers of the priesthood with them. They are the benificiaries of the priesthood that is held by the man. They cannot have it themselves, so it is important that they keep the man around and treat him with respect, so they can have that all-important blessing nearby. This is one of the reasons the church hates divorces. The female divorcee is encouraged to try to keep the family together so they can have the priesthood in the home. Without it, her children with spiritually suffer. This is a wonderful message to give to pressure a woman to stay in an abusive relationship. Quality stuff.  Now, if you were to ask a mature, card carrying female member of the church, why she does not have a problem with the fact that she cannot be given the priesthood, you will most likely be given similar answers to these: “I don’t want it. My husband, or future husband remains worthy and that is all I need”. Or, “God has given women other blessings that men cannot have; like childbirth, ability to raise children”.  And, “If God didn’t give the priesthood just to men, we wouldn’t need them for anything”. The hard core will just say, “Because that is what God has decided and that is the way it should be”.  If you were to ask a man in the church why women cannot have the priesthood, you will usually get an answer like, “They don’t need it. They are more spiritually in tune with God than us men are”. Or, “We don’t question God. He hasn’t given us all the answers, because we aren’t able to comprehend them all yet. Joseph Smith received this information from God, and it is supported through our modern day prophets, so that is the way it is”.

Gun to my head; if there was one reason more than any other, why women and men are willing to continue on with this sexist society, what do I think it is? That is a tough question, because I believe there are many factors that play in to this. Social factors are probably the largest part of it. There are many parts of our culture, here in America, not just in the church, that support sexist ideas. Slowly, however, they are disappearing. The church’s stance on sexism will remain, because it is the foundation of the religion. Tradition in cultures is a very difficult fire to put out. Women in this country weren’t even allowed to vote, which is the concept we were founded on, until very recent. We judged each other, within the law, by color. Eventually, we saw the errors of our ways; and we have many more to rid ourselves of. I just find it appauling that no matter how hard we fight for equal justice in this country; no matter how many people die defending this opportunity, the Mormon church will not allow that to happen.

They will do it in the name of God.

Monday, October 3, 2011


My uncle is a "famous" painter for the Mormon church. There isn't a church, or member's house, I go in that doesn't have a painting of his on the wall. Remember that; it will come up in the story.

If there is one phrase that gets my blood boiling more than any other in this entire world, religiously speaking, it would be any story that starts with the words, "On my mission". There is a sort of unwritten rule in 'the faith' that you don't talk about mission stories whilst in church classes. If it were the golden rule, it would sound like this: Do not tell mission stories unto those that are able to tell mission stories back to you. That is because everybody hates them. They are the lamest, most unimportant, non-personal stories that exist. The problem is, not everybody adheres to the code. And, when one story comes out, it becomes a virus in the room that recreates itself over and over and over again. Pretty soon, as is always the case, the war breaks out to determine who will have the most faith-promoting and life-changing, and yet juxtaposed with excitement, mission story that ever walked this green earth. Well, I am here to tell you that none of them has won....until now. That's right, I have the conch. It is time to tell my mission story. My blog, my story. Suck it.

I did not want to go. Period. Not because of a girl. Not because I would miss my mommy. I didn't party. I worked and went to school. I just did not want to go. I did not believe in the religion. I did not have faith in the religion. I honestly did not believe it. Of course to my parents and family, this came off as me being lazy and confused, not putting forth a real effort to know the truth, and having some sin in my past that I had not taken care of. But it wasn't the case. So, just before I turned 20, I went. I was being sent to Brazil. And, incidentally, the only mission in the world that sounded like it had the word "penis" in it. That turned out to be a lot of fun for me, because I got to watch my mom squirm every time she had to say the name to someone. She would blush and then try to throw a sexy Brazilian accented twist to the name to hide the penis. In fact, that is what I named this enjoying game. "Hide the penis", starring my mother. My dad literally had a Brazilian accent because he served his mission there, a little over 2 centuries ago. Now, his first, genetically his, son was going to follow in his footsteps. This was a big deal for him, because passing on history, and I cannot emphasize this enough, is huge. After all, this is what he concentrated his life's work in. His doctorate degree focused on years of research on the early missionaries of the LDS church. I know because of all the slave labor I put in to doing the research.

So, if I didn't want to go, why did I? Several reasons, I guess, but I think it boils down to doing what I thought I was supposed to do. Nothing amazing was going on in my life, all my friends in Utah had pretty much already left and there was an expectation for me to go. Unfortunately for me, I was not able to make a stand. Even though I didn't believe, I think I thought that it was a good thing to go and would perhaps help me 'grow' into believing. I truly believed that it was like a maturation thing. I  thought, my friends had matured in their religious beliefs before me, because that is what they focused on more than I. I think growing up in the family that I did, it seemed like this was an inevitable thing to occur. Everybody has a testimony story and a 'first time believing' story. For my dad, he says he was pre-teen and has had no doubts since then. In the back of my head, I thought that even though I didn't believe, the mission would bring out that process.

I went in to the MTC  with that assumption; that I would walk in and grab me a testimony and realize that I did believe in God and the Mormon religion. The problem was, I felt like I was the only one there with that idea. Everybody I met there brought their belief with them, like you were supposed to. The MTC is not the place to go to pick one up. It was like doing my residency program before medical school, and thinking I could just pick it up as I went. But I tried, for a while. The problem was, I was in the MTC for an extended amount of time due to visa issues with Brazil.

The MTC was intense. Spirituality 24/7. A dream come true for some. For me, I felt like I was taking a very long final exam that I had no knowledge of and everyone else had studied their eyes out. I was scrambling for answers. I soon began to panic, because the end of the test time was coming and I was nowhere near completion. It soon turned in to a very stressful and not-so-pleasant opportunity. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I got nowhere. I put in a lot of effort, but got nothing back. No answers, no changes, just status quo. By the time we left for Brazil, I was exhausted. I was trying so hard to gain a testimony and to have my moment. I even talked about it with the mission president in the MTC. First thing he suggested to me was to confess the sins that were holding me back. When I told him there were none, he brushed it off as the jitters of going to another country. He said he knew I was doing the right thing, that God was watching over me, and that I did have a testimony; I just hadn't realized it yet.

I saw my parents at the airport, to say farewell before flying to Brazil. I'm sure my dad sensed my lack of enthusiasm because, just before boarding the plane, he pulled me to the side. He squeezed my arm and whispered in my ear, "I don't care what you do for the next two years in Brazil. Just DON'T come home".
No pressure.

Brazil was crazy. After a day or so there, I was dropped off at a bus station, by some other missionaries, handed an envelope with some money in it and an address, and was told to hand the address to the bus driver and then a cab driver when the bus driver signaled for me to get off. They didn't tell me where I was going, other than the address on the paper. I didn't know if this was a 30 minute bus ride or an hour. Turned out that it was about 8. I got on the bus, handed the bus driver the ticket and address, he said something back to me that could have been Chinese for all I knew, realized I didn't understand a word he was saying, laughed at me, mumbled "gringo" and motioned for me to sit in a chair. So I did. A few moments later, this girl got on the bus that was about my age. She fixed her eyes on me and sat in the chair next to me and started talking. Again, I had no idea what she was saying, and I tried to tell her that. She laughed at me, rubbed the top of my head, got up and moved to another seat. I thought she was hitting on me. Turns out, I figured out later, the bus was assigned seating and I was probably in her seat and she was telling me to get the crap out of it. She must have given up and thought it was funny how dumb and lost I was; hence the head rub. So there I sat, 8pm, 9pm....again, I had no idea where I was or where I was going or how long it would take. It was dark and we were flying down these roads in the middle of the jungle, with tree branches smacking the sides of the bus. I remember the bus driver passing another bus on this 2 lane road with the jungle up to the edge of the road, going at least 55mph. 10pm, 11pm, midnight...We made a few stops at small town junctions and people would get off and on. Every hour or so, I would make my way up to the driver, and hold out my paper with the address. He would nod, to say that he remembers me, and chuckle. 1am, 2am....I'm getting very nervous now, but also very hungry and tired. I try to stay awake, but eventually fall asleep. I am awoken by the bus driver, motioning that we were at my stop. I am the only one that gets off, and he drives away. I am at a bus terminal, which is basically a few cement pillars with a roof, restrooms, benches and of course a television with soccer highlights playing. Other than the occasional GOOOAAALLLL from the announcer on the t.v., I am completely alone. Outside of the terminal, there is a parking lot, empty of cars and thick forest beyond that in all directions. There is one road leading in, and there I sit. Middle of the night. Brazil, I think. No cell phone and no idea what to do next. So I sit, for about an hour, waiting to die. Finally, I see a car driving up the road, and it is a taxi. I wave him down, hand him the address, he tries to talk to me, chuckles and says "gringo". We exchange nods and shrugs and he motions for me to get in. He drives me through the outskirts of an old city, mostly pitch black and stops at a car repair shop. He motions for me to get out, grabs my luggage and puts it on the sidewalk. he motions for payment, so I hand him the envelope of money that I had. He rummaged through it, took some, pushed a button by the door of the building and drove away. It is now about 5 in the morning, still dark and once again alone. I pushed the same button a few more times over the next 15 minutes or so, and eventually this little 3-foot dude opened the door, got excited, grabbed my stuff and in I went.

Spiritually, once I arrived in Brazil, I really struggled. Everything  became instantly real to me, and it overwhelmed me. I was no longer just 'in school' and going through the motions of an institution. I was really telling other human beings that I believed in this message and I knew that they should as well; and that it would make their lives better. I was going in to their homes, or shacks, and telling them that I believed this stuff. The problem was, I didn't believe it. I wasn't even close to believing it; and every time I said that I did, it got harder to actually say it. Finally, one day, while we were in a house, doing our thing, my companion motioned for me to give my testimony of belief; which is part of the lesson plan. I couldn't do it, and I excused myself from doing so. Awkward. A few days later, we got on a bus and drove all the way back to the mission headquarters to spend a week for the Christmas holiday. We stayed at a nearby church with several other missionaries. My companion had spoken to the mission president about his concerns regarding my beliefs, and I got called in to a meeting with him. I told him I didn't believe and was struggling with being there. He shrugged it off and I went back to the holiday festivities. A few days later, I was summoned by the president, and we, along with 2 other missionaries, drove the 3 hours to the temple in Sao Paulo. He took me through a temple session, and then to another building where he told me, in his broken english, he wanted me to meet with someone. It turned out I was having a meeting with the regional General Authority for Brazil. Just me and a General Authority. No big deal, right? Wrong. I sit outside of his office for several minutes while the two of them met; probably conjuring up the plan to convince me of changing my ways. The mission president and the G.A. came out of the office. He motioned for me to go in and have a seat, and he would be back in a moment. As I walked in the office, the first thing I notice, on the wall next to his desk, is a very large painting that my uncle had made. Oh crap, I thought; this is not going to go well. My plan was to try to get through this without any mention of my family. The G.A. came in, sat in his chair, stared at me for a few seconds, and then said "You have got to be related to Rex Price: Just look at you". I acknowledged that he was indeed my grandpa. He then said, pointing to the painting, "Do you know who painted this?" I reluctantly told him that I did. He then told me that my uncle, the artist, was one of his best friends growing up. He said there was a time in his life when he was troubled and drifting from the things that were right; and that my grandpa took him under his gigantic wing (6'6", 350+ lbs), and changed his life for the better. He told me, "I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for your uncle and grandpa". He told me the painting on the wall was the original that my uncle made specifically for him.
The two of us had some small talk for awhile, then the fun started. I eventually told him that I didn't believe what I was telling other people to believe; and that I felt like I was lying to them. I told him I didn't want to feel like I was a liar. He told me that he knew I DID believe the church teachings, and that I wasn't lying. He told me I was feeling that way because I was homesick. He said that my geneology wouldn't allow for me to not feel the spirit; that I came from a long line of great Priesthood holders. It was now my responsibility to continue the great line. I remember feeling a sort of panic; a feeling that things were going to get worse for me if I didn't do anything about it. I knew this man was not going to listen to me, so I became determined to get my point across. The only problem was, when I get in that frame of mind, I usually end up just pissing people off. I have a gift for being able to get under people's skin by arguing in a way that makes their heads spin. People of power hate it the most. I think it is because they feel they are not being respected. They are used to people just agreeing with them. Not today, sir, not today.

I told him I was definitely not homesick, and the last thing I wanted to do was go home to a disappointed family. I asked him to not tell my parents, and send me back to Wisconsin, where I grew up, and I would figure things out from there. He chuckled and said no. He said that I was denying the fact that I was homesick: He had seen it a bunch of times and knew that was my problem. I was needed in Brazil, and he had no intention on sending me back to America. He promised that if I would work hard for the next six months, that everything would work out and the Lord would bless me for it. If I went home, I would miss out on many blessings to come and it will effect my life forever. I reiterated that I was indeed not homesick.  I told him that I didn't feel the spirit, and truly did not have a testimony of the church. I told him that I could no longer look people in the eye and testify to them that any of the church doctrine was true.  He told me that Satan was putting those feelings in me to confuse me and hold me back from sharing the true gospel to others. Wittingly, or so I thought, I asked him that if Satan was in me, should I really be teaching people about things? Because how would I, or the people I was teaching, know if I was teaching the words of Christ or of the devil? His demeanor changed. He went from the laid-back, feet up on the desk guy that was giving advice on something he dealt with every day; to the intimidating, angry guy leaning over his desk, flush faced with a stiff finger pointing at my head. He definitely did not like my smart comment. He raised his voice a few octaves, telling me to stop being a jack ass (my words, not his) and get back out there and do my job. Again, I told him that I didn't think that was the right thing for me to be doing. He got even louder and more angry, stood up, told me to get out of his office and to grow up and be a man. As I was walking out, my mission president was hustling in, due to the commotion. The G.A. told him to send me back out on the mission and he doesn't ever want to see me in his office again.

So that went well. We drove back to the mission home in an awkward, 3 hours of silence. My mind was racing. The strange thrill of bringing a G.A. to his boiling point, the shame I was undoubtedly placing on my relatives, and the hopelessness of my situation, were turning in to a dark, cloudy force of panic. For the first time in my life, I felt I was in a situation in which I had absolutely no control. I couldn't just run away, because they had my passport and I did not know the language well enough. I didn't even know how to notify the police; and from everything I had heard about the police there, you didn't want to notify them of anything. I wasn't allowed to use the phone to call for help. Growing up, I was always in the middle of trouble. But, as my dad would say, I would "always come out of it smelling like a rose". Not this time. I couldn't get myself out this.  As the car slowly made it's way out of the concrete jungle and in to the green one, the despair became intense. I truly felt hopeless. I felt like my name didn't even matter anymore; that my existence was irrelevant.

The president kept me at the mission home for a few days so he could keep an eye on me and so that he could have daily, personal lecture time with me. That was delightful. I would wake up in the morning, run errands with the office missionaries, do some chores, get lectured, eat meals and go to sleep on the couch in the hall while watching the cockroaches play. The only joy I felt was taking rubbing alcohol and pouring it in a circle around a cockroach, and lighting it on fire. That only lasted for a few seconds until either the cockroach ran through the fire and disappeared, or the alcohol burned off. Whoopee.

I believe it was day 5 of my imprisonment at the office, when 'it' happened. I was given a little freedom to go eat lunch at the deli across the street. You know, for good behavior.  As I sat there, eating my rice and beans, a thought came in my head. I quickly dismissed it and moved on. A few hours later, it popped back up again. This time, I spent a little more time on it. That night, as I lay on the couch, the thought came back. I stayed up all night considering it. In the morning, I met with the president. I told him that I had been lying this entire time, and that I couldn't take it anymore. I told him I had sex with someone when I first arrived on my mission. A smile came across his face, and this is what he said: "I knew it."

The next morning, as the president was dropping me off at the bus station, to take me to the airport to go home, he said, "It is good that you told me. I know that God is proud of you, I can feel it". This was coming from the same guy that was dropping me off at a bus station, by myself, with all my crap, instead of driving 2 hours to take me to the airport. He told me that my ticket was waiting for me at the airport, handed me my visa/passport, and drove off. Douche bag. Sorry, I meant president douche bag.

I spent the next 24 or so hours arguing with customs and hopping plains to eventually return to the outstretched arms of two very dejected parents. That night, or the next night, I went to visit with my stake president to officially be released from my mission. I really liked my stake president. I told him everything. I told him the truth about what I was feeling and the truth about lying to get home. When I was finished with the story, he smiled and said that he felt like I did nothing wrong. He wouldn't even take the money I offered to pay for the plane ticket home.  As far as he was concerned, he felt I was still worthy to serve a mission. He said, "Well let's get you back out there!". He told me he could have me on a plane the next day if I wanted to go back. I told him I didn't want that. So, he left it as an open invitation, for when I was ready to return. I was then released from my missionary duties.